Beyond Images - Briefing  5 Perspectives on the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
London - published Friday 26 July 2002

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Israel's policy of maintaining roadblocks and checkpoints is making life impossible for the Palestinians. Now Israel is also building a security fence, which excludes the West Bank Palestinians and represents nothing less than apartheid.

Physical Barriers Against Suicide Bombers

• Suicide bombers have been murdering Israeli civilians since 1994. There have been over 10,000 violent incidents since October 2000, in which 580 Israeli men, women and children have been killed - in bombings, drive-by shootings, machine-gun attacks and other acts of terror.

• The attackers have almost always come from West Bank Palestinian towns and villages, and are usually members of either Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, or the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

• The attacks have occurred both when the peace process was at its height, and when it was collapsing.

• Since the mid-1990s, Israel has used military roadblocks and checkpoints on roads which lead out of the Palestinian-controlled territories in order to intercept possible terrorists, and reduce the number of atrocities. The attacks almost always reduce in number when these measures are in place, but intensify as soon as the measures are lifted.

• While Israelis do not naïvely assume that Israel can be completely sealed against terrorism, roadblocks and closures have lowered the number of Israeli casualties very significantly.

• According to Israel's Defence Minister, over 80% of Palestinian attacks are intercepted or otherwise "fail".

• Since October 2000, Palestinian terrorism has reached a much higher level of intensity from its level in the 1990s. Israel has established semi-permanent checkpoints and roadblocks in many locations in the West Bank, and leading out of the Gaza Strip, in order to defend its citizens.

• Suicide bombers have on many occasions been stopped at these checkpoints. Bomb belts have been seized which were ready for use (including in one instance hidden inside a Red Crescent ambulance).

The Disruption of Daily Life and Economic Activity

• Of course these checkpoints disrupt the freedom of movement of Palestinian civilians. They result in delays to men, women and children, who have to wait to pass through, often in extreme heat. Palestinians take longer to get to work, or to reach hospital, university or school. The measures have also made it harder for Palestinian society to lift itself out of its disastrous economic stagnation.

• But if there was no terrorist threat, Israel would have no reason to maintain these checkpoints, and these effects would not be felt.

• Most Israelis reject the argument that the restrictions on Palestinian movement should be abandoned because they just breed frustration and cause more terrorist attacks.

• Quite the opposite, they say. The terrorism has been just as intense when Israel has been making political concessions and relaxing its security guard. The declared aim of the terrorist groups is to destroy Israel - and no political concessions can address the threat which they pose. Only physical protection and self-defence can be effective.

• Additionally, it is not only the Palestinians whose everyday lives have been "disrupted" by the upsurge of violence. Israelis too have been “disrupted”. Israeli daily life has been thrown into turmoil, as civilians find ways of reducing the danger of being attacked. The economy has been severely damaged by the intensified conflict.

The Treatment of Palestinians at Checkpoints

• Palestinian spokesmen complain of the "humiliating" treatment of Palestinians going through Israeli checkpoints.

• But, by their own admission, any Palestinian - man or woman - going through these checkpoints could be a "walking bomb".

• It is therefore hardly surprising that Israeli border police and soldiers are wary towards them. Many Israeli soldiers have been killed by bombers or car bombs at checkpoints, including by Palestinians who posed as harmless, came with striking distance and then blew themselves up.

Israel's Security Fence

• The security fence which Israel is building to "fence" off most of the West Bank from Israel is a more permanent barrier to suicide bomb attacks and infiltrations.

• Its creation is the result of sustained Palestinian terror. If that terror stopped, there would be no rationale for the fence. Political support for it within Israel would evaporate.

• The fence is designed with patrol roads on either side and sophisticated monitoring technology to detect infiltrators. Such a fence was erected around the Gaza Strip in the 1990s. This is largely why there have been no suicide attacks into Israel from Gaza.

• The claim that Israel's fence results in "apartheid" has no basis. Thousands of Jews, living in settlements, will find themselves on the "wrong" side of the fence. The fence has no legal impact on the rights of Israel Arabs or Jews. But the physical separation which the fence achieves has been forced on Israel by its overriding obligation to protect its citizens from being killed.

Support for the fence from the Israeli left

• Support for the fence within Israel is very widespread. Typical is the following:-

"As an Israeli citizen who has voted for Meretz, one of Israel's most left-wing parties, for five straight elections … I would like to go on record as one of the overwhelming majority of Israelis who see this fence as an absolute security and political necessity. Palestinian terrorism has created a situation in which the only envisaged solution is a clear separation of the populations…."

- Letter from Mike Fainzilber, The Economist, 6 July 2002 -

• Its main critics are West Bank settler leaders who understandably fear that the fence may divert yet more Palestinian attacks onto them, and right-wing Israeli political leaders who believe that the fence may become a 'de facto' border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Beyond Images Conclusion – A Palestinian Responsibility

• The checkpoints and roadblocks protect Israeli citizens from terrorists who openly declare their intention to kill and maim as many innocent Israelis as possible, and with whom no political dialogue is possible.

• The security fence which Israel is building is intended to increase this protection.

• The disruption which these measures cause to the Palestinian population is the price they are tragically paying for the wave of terror attacks by Palestinian groups.

• Only the Palestinian people can change the conditions which have brought Israel’s measures about.


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